Federal authorities have been warning state and local officials since early 2016 that leftist extremists known as "antifa" had become increasingly confrontational and dangerous, so much so that the Department of Homeland Security formally classified their activities as "domestic terrorist violence," according to interviews and confidential law enforcement documents obtained by POLITICO.
Since well before the Aug. 12 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned deadly, DHS has been issuing warnings about the growing likelihood of lethal violence between the left-wing anarchists and right-wing white supremacist and nationalist groups.
Previously unreported documents disclose that by April 2016, authorities believed that "anarchist extremists" were the primary instigators of violence at public rallies against a range of targets. They were blamed by authorities for attacks on the police, government and political institutions, along with symbols of "the capitalist system," racism, social injustice and fascism, according to a confidential 2016 joint intelligence assessment by DHS and the FBI.
After President Donald Trump's election in November, the antifa activists locked onto another target — his supporters, especially those from white supremacist and nationalist groups suddenly turning out in droves to hail his victory, support crackdowns on immigrants and Muslims and to protest efforts to remove symbols of the Confederacy.
Those reports appear to bolster Trump's insistence that extremists on the left bore some blame for the clashes in Charlottesville and represent a "problem" nationally. But they also reflect the extent that his own political movement has spurred the violent backlash.